9 injured in police action in Baghjan

GUWAHATI: Nine people, including four policemen, were injured when security personnel used force to disperse protestors who were allegedly preventing OIL authorities from clearing materials from its Baghjan oil well site, which was the spot of a major fire last year, in Upper Assam’s Tinsukia district on Saturday.

The police resorted to fire in blank and baton charge to disperse the group of protesters who had blockaded the approach road leading to the Baghjan oil field since the past one week demanding full compensation to the affected families in Baghjan oil inferno.

Police said five protesters sustained injuries as police baton-charged them while four policemen were also injured as the fleeing protesters pelted stones at the police force.

Police said that they had to burst tear gas shells and rubber bullets to control the situation as it threatened to spiral out of control.

The protesters who are residents of Baghjan area and were affected by last year’s blowout at Oil India Limited (OIL)’s Baghjan gas well in Tinsukia district have been demanding release of the full compensation amount as fixed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

Since the last one week, the protesters have been squatting on the road hampering movement of vehicles and crew of Oil India Limited to the oil field area.

On Saturday morning, officials of the Tinsukia district administration accompanied by police and CRPF reached the site and pleaded with the agitators to clear the road. As the protesters refused to lift the blockade even after several appeals, orders were given to evict the squatters by force.

“Since the past several days the people of the area have been blocking a strategic approach road to the Baghjan oil field. They even refused to let pass vehicles and equipment of Oil India Limited. They were adamant that unless the full compensation amount is paid they won’t allow movement of vehicles or people,” Tinsukia SP Debojit Deuri said.

“Today we tried to reason with them to lift the blockade but they remain unmoved. Ultimately we had to lathi charge the protesters to disperse them. Some of them started pelting stones at the police following which we had to fire rubber bullets and tear gas. Five protesters suffered minor injuries while four policemen were injured in the stone pelting. One vehicle was also damaged in the stone pelting,” the SP said.

The protesters claimed that even after one year of the May 27, 2020 Baghjan blowout, most of the affected people have yet to receive the full compensation amount.

Notably, OIL has been compensating the victims in a phase-wise manner and many are still on the waiting list.

“We strongly condemn today’s incident. Instead of sympathising with the people, the government is resorting to high handedness. The whole blame lies with the government and the district machinery,” said Satyajit Moran, president of Baghjan Gaon Milanjyoti Yuba Sangha.

“Last year the NGT expert panel had fixed compensation of Rs 25 lakh to 173 families and Rs 20 lakh to 439 families affected by the Baghjan blowout. But as of date, only 12 families have received Rs 25 lakh, 161 families have received Rs 15 lakh and 439 families have received Rs 10 lakh,” Moran added.

An estimated loss of Rs 25,000 crore and a biodiversity loss of 55 per cent have been caused by the blowout, according to an inquiry report prepared by an official of the state Forest Department.

Regarding compensation to the people near the Baghjan well, OIL earlier said it had deposited the money estimated by the Tinsukia district administration and the National Green Tribunal after surveying 2,756 families.

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